From the late night ferry between Ireland and Wales, to the deep-fried bread served at breakfast, and the hour spent patiently enduring a theological rant by a crazy woman in a carpark, it had been a rough start to the day. But by 4pm Dave and I were half way around the 6.8 mile Strumble Head circular walking trail, enjoying the glorious outdoorsiness of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
We picked the walk from the photocopied maps on sale at the Fishguard tourist information centre, deciding that the nearby Strumble Head was the perfect ‘half day’ length, offered a park for Panda van and boasted all the things that one really needs for a great afternoon on the Pembrokeshire Coast – a lighthouse, some farms and access to sunshine. Within minutes of leaving the van, we realised the walk was going to be even better than hoped… it also came with a sparkling blue horizon, friendly ponies, kissing gates and rustic but ambiguous markers that made the whole afternoon feel like an treasure hunt.
The headland trail led us over rocky hills and into boggy fields, past citrine grasses, yellow-budded shrubs, salt-burnt moors and daisy speckled pastures.
Then it turned inland, around a hill of boulders, over stone fences and into paddocks of farm animals. It was in this second stage of the walk that the treasure hunt got really interesting. It seems we had graduated from full signposts with arrows to little medallion markers screwed onto fence posts, tree branches and knee-high stakes.
Somewhere in our hunt for medallions, we veered from the ‘main’ track into a creek, which opened into a quagmire. By this point our little toes were swimming in muddy water and our ankles had taken a couple of dips too, but we eventually emerged onto something that resembled a path.
The walk/climb/mud-wrestle/treasure hunt all ended well after about four hours (including lunch) when we rounded back to find Panda van, dry shoes and more amazing views.
Our second day in Wales was equally as fabulous. Conscious of only having one day before being due back in London, we had driven a couple of hours east after our Pembrokeshire Coast adventure and wild camped just outside Llandovery.
Our morning info sourcing mission led us to the busy little town of Brecon, where the tourist centre was thriving and well stocked. The choice to hike or bike had been on our minds all morning as the Brecon Beacons is well known for being a great cycling destination. But the cost of hiring a bike for a day seemed a little much for us and we opted for a free walk past waterfalls in Talybont Reservoir.
The short drive from Brecon to Talybont Reservoir took us past more lush pastures, flower-proud cottages and along the glassy reservoir. The Blaen y Glyn waterfall walk near Talybont on Usk was only one mile and was marked as a 30 minute journey, but the captivating mossy forest floor, happy little waterfalls and peaceful cascade had us scrambling rocks, ducking ferns and hugging mossy walls in a 90 minute photographic exploration of the mystical glen.
Feeling like we’d had our adventure for day, albeit brief, we then settled in beside the melodic creek for hours of picnicking and reading in the sunshine. As I sat relaxing in that magical retreat, I could almost feel the faeires and wood nymphs peering over my shoulder.
As the sun settled behind the trees, I reluctantly gave up my creek-side lounge and drove further east to Abergavenny, where our campsite in an orchard waited patiently.
Useful info for walking and travelling these parts:
Wales is known for its outdoor delights & eco-tourism – the various tourism offices are well prepared to offer you information about biking, hiking, kayaking, climbing… or whatever other sport floats your boat. There is also a lot of online and in-centre info about eco-friendly lodges, tours and transport services. Check out my pin board to find a heap of links designed for visitors.
There are great travellers’ rests on the side of the A40. There is an impressive amount of wide bays for travellers to stop on the side of the road. During the day, many of these had a little trailer cart selling hot food and by night, we saw quite a few with motorhomes pulled up in them. We wild camped in one just east of Llandovery and felt very safe.
National Park land goes through farms and other property. Like many of the other national parks and walking trails across the UK, Pembrokeshire National Park led us through grazing pastures with wary sheep and farmyards with cows lined up for milking. So don’t be alarmed if you come up to a farm gate, just make sure you close it behind you and if in doubt about the path, just ask the farmer.
If you’re catching the late ferry from Ireland to Fishguard in Wales, you can find a park close to the arrival port. We drove less then half a mile to find a well-lit, empty carpark on our left, by the sea, which served as a great wild camping site at such a late hour.
That’s the end of my Wicked adventure, but there are plenty more travel stories to come…
Stayed tuned to hear read about Istanbul, Turkey and to read my guide to travelling the UK and Ireland in a campervan.
A big cheers to Wicked Campers UK for the awesome van (Panda) and for making this trip possible. It was such a blast and you’ve made me a Wicked fan for life!